When Bemidji State upset Notre Dame and then Cornell in Grand Rapids, many among the Midwest Regional press corps groused about the way the Beavers wins would affect the television audiences for the Frozen Four. I have to admit that I expressed some of the same concerns after the Irish lost Saturday night.
Given the economy and the seeming lack of interest in our favorite collegiate sport, went the argument, college hockey needed big names in the FF to attract a television audience and earn publicity for the sport, especially in these hard economic times when too many potential viewers are distracted by other things.
But to echo the words of Tom Serratore you know what? Theres nothing bigger than Paul Bunyan, and theres certainly nothing bigger than the American Way.
The last question posed to Serratore, the BSU head coach, in the post-game press conference was about the meaning of the win over Cornell for Beaver hockey. What follows is Serratores response. I wish you could have been there to hear his fervent reply, so heart-felt, so genuine so completely right that I nearly had tears in my eyes, and not because of this wins meaning for Beaver hockey.
“I think this win is great for college hockey,” said Serratore. “This is what college hockey is about; this is what sports is about. Were not a BSC school. You take a look at college hockey, college hockey is predominately a bunch of mid-major institutions. The beauty of college hockey is that theres a small margin of error and theres a lot of parity. You know what? It was proven this weekend. It was proven last year. Thats the beauty of it.
“This is good. Holy Cross beating Minnesota is healthy; its good for hockey, its good for sports. George Mason going in college basketball is good for sports. It piques interest. Its great for the media. Its fan interest. Kids believe youre giving opportunities.
“You know what? I dont want to sit there and recite Rocky Balboa 1976, were the land of opportunity, but you know what? This is America and thats whats kind of great about it. And its sports. Its special. Franco this year, my brotherbeing an eyelash away from going to the Frozen Four. To me, thats just outstanding and thats what sports need. In hockey in general we need that, and its good.
“So what does that mean to our program? I dont know what that means for our program because our programs had a lot of success but I think its just great for the game and it gives everybody out there you know what? It gives them good feelthat it can be their day if its not next year then in two years of three years.
“I think we have to look at the big picture, you know, not the small picture there.”
And after a fantastic, all-American, upset-by-the-little-guy weekend that Bemidji was good enough to give to us, we especially dont need to be thinking about the small screen.
As it turns out, it is good for hockey. It is good for sports. Dont believe me? Okay. Read what The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal have to say about it. The Sporting News writes, “Suddenly, everyone wants to know about Bemidji State.” Even snarky sports writers that have written to deride the Beavers accomplishment by way of belittling college hockey have, at least, mentioned both the Beavers and college hockey.
It is good for hockey. It is good for sports.
Who knew that a little school 250 miles north of the Twin Cities could melt even the most jaded of sporting hearts and remind us all of the real role that sport plays in the real American landscape?
Well, Tom Serratore and the Beavers knew.
And now the rest of us do, too.